Eggs-traordinary: Rachel Allen puts Irish eggs to good use
Rachel Allen puts the summer's long mornings and the abundance of fresh produce to good use with an array of brunch recipes.
To me, summer is the best time for brunch. Howling wind and lashing rain don't always put me in the mood for a luxurious morning meal. It's not quite the same to have friends over and share a warming bowl of porridge. But, in the summer sun, I love to while away the late morning, sharing convivial food while sipping something fruity and fizzy.
What food works at brunch time? Well, certainly anything with eggs. Anyone's going to be happy with a full-Irish breakfast, of course, but you can get creative with your egg offerings.
Baked eggs are surprisingly rare on breakfast menus, but they're one of my favourite ways to serve eggs. You can embellish a baked egg with all the flavours you'd like. I'll sometimes add creamed spinach or kale when I want a particularly nutritious version. My husband, Isaac, makes fabulous baked eggs. The recipe opposite, with thick slices of spicy chorizo and a sweet tomato sauce, is his.
The sweetcorn fritters, opposite, make for a divine summer brunch. They're a southern-American classic - so simple to make, yet full of flavour and with a wonderful crunch. Once you have the batter made, you can easily fry off lots of them for your guests or family.
The avocado and mango salsa makes an ideal accompaniment to the fritters. The fresh, punchy flavours of the lime and coriander are the ideal foil to the rich, fried fritters. If you can't find good, sweet mangoes, then peaches would make a lovely local substitute.
The fritters are delicious to make with fresh or frozen sweetcorn. For the best fresh flavour, I like to use whole corn on the cob. To use whole corn, place a piece of corn upright on your chopping board, then use a sharp knife to cut down and 'shave' off the sweetcorn pieces.
Don't cut too far down into the tough corn husk - the kernels are tender and will come away easily.
3 tablespoons milk
50g (2oz) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt, plus an extra pinch
A good pinch of freshly ground black pepper
200g (7oz) sweetcorn, fresh or frozen (drained weight)
3-6 tablespoons of sunflower oil
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the milk. Add the flour, the baking powder, the salt and the freshly ground black pepper. Use a whisk to mix everything together until smooth, then stir in the fresh or frozen sweetcorn, whichever you're using. In a separate clean, dry bowl, whisk together the egg whites with a pinch of salt, until they form stiff peaks, then carefully fold in the corn mixture - make sure not to fold too heavily to keep the air in the mixture.
Put a frying pan on a medium heat and add the 3 tablespoons of sunflower oil. If you're using a large frying pan, you may need to add more sunflower oil - it should completely cover the base of the pan.
When the oil is quite hot, spoon in a tablespoon of the fritter mixture and very lightly flatten it with the spoon if it's too lumpy. Cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute on one side - the fritter should be golden and crusty - then use a spatula to turn it over, and cook for a further minute or so on the other side. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fritter and place it on kitchen paper to drain.
Repeat for the rest of the mixture. You can do more than one at once, but be careful not to overload the pan, or they'll fuse together! You'll need to add more sunflower oil every few batches. Serve the fritters with mango and avocado salsa, see below.
Mango and Avocado Salsa
1 avocado, cut into roughly 1cm (½in) cubes
½ mango or 1 peach, cut into roughly 1cm (½in) cubes
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, roughly chopped
A squeeze of lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a bowl, gently mix together the avocado cubes, the mango cubes or peach cubes, whichever you're using, the finely sliced spring onions, the extra-virgin olive oil, the chopped fresh coriander, the lime juice, then season to taste with the salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Baked eggs with tomatoes, chorizo, chilli and cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
A good pinch of crushed chilli peppers (dried chilli pepper flakes)
8 large eggs
8 slices of chorizo
50g (2oz) manchego or Parmesan, grated
4 slices of bread, toasted and buttered, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Put a frying pan on a medium-low heat, add the olive oil then add the skinned, chopped tomatoes, see my tip, above left. Season with a good pinch of salt and cook for about 15 minutes, until the tomato sauce is thick and viscous.
Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped parsley and the crushed chilli peppers. Divide the tomato sauce between four ovenproof ramekins and break 2 eggs into each dish. Place a slice of the chorizo on top of each egg and divide the grated manchego or Parmesan cheese, whichever you're using, between the ramekins.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the whites are set, but the yolks are just ever so slightly soft. Just before the eggs are ready, toast the slices of bread and butter them.
Remove the eggs from the oven and serve with the buttered toast.
1 x 400g (14oz) tin mango puree
750ml (1¼pt) bottle of good sparkling wine (I wouldn't use an expensive Champagne for this, but use a decent bubbly all the same)
You can use Champagne flutes if you like, but the mimosas will taste the same from a glass tumbler.
Divide the mango puree between glasses, depending on how many you have and how large you'd like your drinks to be, then top up each glass with sparkling wine.
The ratio you want is one-third mango puree to two-thirds sparkling wine.
Strawberry and blueberry smoothie
50g (2oz) blueberries
125g (4½oz) strawberries
200ml (7fl oz) natural yoghurt
The juice of 1 orange
2 teaspoons honey
Place the blueberries, the strawberries, the bananas, the natural yoghurt, the orange juice and the honey into a blender or a food processor.
Whizz everything together just until smooth, then divide the smoothie into four glasses - serve the smoothies on their own or over ice, if you prefer.
To peel tomatoes, cover them in boiling water, then, if they are very ripe, wait for 30 seconds. If they are less ripe, wait 1 minute. Drain the tomatoes, then, when they’re cool enough to handle, the skins should come off easily.